Proactivism but with Patience
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

President Musharraf’s address to the American Jewish Congress was a masterly stroke of proactivism and the tremendous reception he received clearly showed the short-term gains as well as long-term benefits also by way of a greater understanding at least, if not outright support for, Pakistan within the US Congress and beyond.
In addition, he put forth the Pakistani position on terrorism and recognition of Israel to an audience that needed to hear it. Especially in the context of anti-Semitism, of which Muslims are continuously being accused, the Musharraf address exposed this lie most effectively in the content of his address. All in all, the address was one of those events that in themselves change the dynamics of perceptions and policy -- similar to the masterful manner in which Z. A. Bhutto recognized Bangladesh through the OIC Summit in Lahore.
Ironically, both these occasions left India out in the cold on the diplomatic front. This time round, just as Pakistan is shoring up its bruised and battered image and credibility abroad, India is finding it rough sailing in the US Congress on its nuclear deal with the US. Manmohan Singh’s tired rhetoric accusing Pakistan of continuing to allow infiltration across the LoC found few takers in the US this time round, and India may find it has to pay a high political price for its nuclear deal with the US -- especially in its relations with countries like Iran.
However, having made it clear to the Israelis and the American Jewish Congress that for Pakistan full diplomatic relations with Israel will only come with progress in the peace process and in the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, the time has come to now show patience. Pakistan has taken the proactive steps to make a qualitative shift on its traditional policy on Israel. But we must not give in to our proclivity towards impatience in seeing results. We need to wait and watch where the Palestinian-Israeli peace process is headed beyond Gaza and we need to take serious note of Israeli efforts to make the occupation of Jerusalem permanent. Pakistan’s moves on Israel and reaching out to the American Jewish Congress have allowed other Muslim states to move in a similar direction.
The Indonesian foreign minister met with his Israeli counterpart in New York and there was a similar meeting between the Qataris and Israelis also. Clearly, Pakistan has shown itself to be a leader within the Muslim World with others gaining strength from its proactive moves. But we must not undermine the Palestinian struggle by giving Israel the final approval of formal recognition until we see the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. We also need to see how Israel reacts to Hamas’s efforts to move into the political sphere in Gaza -- as the IRA has done in Northern Ireland. This will show whether or not Israel is prepared to accept true Palestinian sovereignty.
We in Pakistan tend to show impatience in playing for the long term. That is why we need to constantly be aware of this proclivity to go for end solutions in haste. Look at our peace process with India. The Musharraf-Singh Summit showed Indian obduracy once again on Kashmir, but we continue to offer them all manner of trade and other concessions. So far, not one conflictual issue has been resolved through the bilateral dialogue -- not even the waters issue or the Sir Creek dispute. So why must we rush into all manner of concessions like opening up of the land trade route? There are no time constraints on us so we need to take a breather and see where exactly we are headed on the issues of bilateral conflict. At the moment it seems as if we are sliding down at breakneck speed on the trade and economic issues of the peace process with no time to examine what is happening on the political issues.
We should also note Manmohan Singh’s constant refrain of there being no question of the redrawing of borders and perhaps educate him on the absurdity of his claims on three main counts:
• One, the LoC is not a border but a ceasefire line so his refrain has no locus standi in the context of the Kashmir dispute.
• Two, India is one of two countries -- Israel being the second -- who have, since their creation, altered their borders time and again through the use of military force. Beginning with Hyderabad and Junagadh and moving on to the occupation of Kashmir to the takeover of Goa to the swallowing up of Sikkim, India has constantly been redrawing its borders! In addition, it played a major role in redrawing Pakistan’s borders in 1971 although the validity of the two-nation theory prevented it from absorbing East Bengal into the Indian Union! So how can Manmohan Singh talk of no “redrawing” of borders!
• Three, India is involved in border talks with China and eventually there will be a redrawing of borders in that case also. So even in the present timeframe, India is having to consider redrawing of borders. Unfortunately, there continues to be an arrogance in the Indian approach towards Pakistan and this has also been reflected in the recent statement by India’s Foreign Minister, Natwar Singh, who has declared that he knows Pakistan will not hang Sarabjeet, the RAW terrorist. Now why should Pakistan deal differently with this terrorist -- and we need to remember that he is not simply a spy to be exchanged but a man responsible for terrorism, which led to the death of many innocent Pakistanis. So why should his life be spared when other terrorists have the death penalty carried out against them? Because he is Indian?
If we find the death penalty abhorrent, we need to abolish it per se, but not simply in the case of one terrorist simply because we are involved in a peace process with India. After all, India has also condemned terrorism, so why should it seek salvation for its national who has been found guilty of terrorism? Why do we come under such pressure? We have shown ourselves to be impatient for results. We want shortcuts when we should be playing for the long haul. Here we can learn valuable lessons from our Chinese friends. Why do some of us have apprehensions on Israel and Kashmir? Because we have seen too many impatient decisions for which we will suffer long-term consequences -- simply because we could not sit it out and take the pressure. But when we have been able to do so, we have benefited -- as reflected in our acquisition of nuclear capability against all odds and monumental pressure.
President Musharraf has already made history by his bold proactivism in foreign policy. Now there is virtue in not being in a hurry but in taking time to study developments and most critically building a national consensus for future strategic decisions. At the end of the day no leader can be stronger than the nation he leads.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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